Australia’s new round of military support for Ukraine, announced yesterday in Washington DC during meetings between Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and US President Joe Biden, has “modern MacGiver” qualities that could contribute to their mutual ally’s victory.
While not large in overall dollar terms at $20 AUD million ($13 million), the announced package is considered noteworthy for its technological ingenuity and the “robotification” of modern warfare – and is apparently tailored for Ukraine’s battlefield needs as it presses its offensive on heavily-fortified, Russian-held positions in the country’s south.
The Aussie package includes de-mining equipment, mobile x-ray machines, three 3D metal printers, and counter-drone systems – all designed and manufactured Down Under – and the deployment of a fifth generation early-warning radar aircraft that can spot Russian missiles launched thousands of kilometers away.
The Australian Prime Minister said his middle power nation is committed to backing Ukraine in the ongoing war waged against it by Russia.
“Australia remains steadfast in supporting Ukraine to defend itself against Russia’s illegal and immoral invasion,” Albanese said.
“This contribution will provide Ukraine with some of the best capabilities in the world while investing in Australia’s sovereign defense industry and technology sector,” the Labor Party leader added.
His Government’s Defense Industry Minister Pat Conroy noted that 3D metal printers can be used to produce spare parts on battlefields, while de-mining and portable x-ray equipment can provide life-saving assistance for Ukrainian personnel.
The new support takes Canberra’s overall assistance to Kyiv to approximately $910 AUD million ($570 million), including: some 90 Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles (which are highly valued by frontline Ukrainian mechanized infantry units); heavy artillery such as 155mm howitzers; ammunition and humanitarian contributions.
Australia is one of the largest non-NATO contributors to Ukraine’s defense, and also participated in UK-based training of Ukrainian troops who are thought to be part of newly deployed assault brigades.
The new package was greeted in exclusive comments to Kyiv Post by Ukraine’s Ambassador to Australia and New Zealand, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, but came under some criticism for very different reasons from Australian experts and commentators.
“We are very grateful for this latest tranche of support,” the Ambassador told Kyiv Post. “What’s perhaps most significant is the use of innovative Australian technology and manufacturing in support of Ukraine’s victory.”
“Ukraine has shown that smarts and speed are critical to defeating an aggressor with more force of arms and manpower - and it is great that our Australian mates understand that and are working with us in that respect,” the diplomat added.
Retired Australian General Mick Ryan, who has visited Ukraine several times during the full-scale invasion and regularly engages with senior Ukrainian commanders, exclusively said to Kyiv Post that “the capabilities being provided are important and will be crucial during winter and in the demining of the large parts of Ukraine that Russia has contaminated with mines and unexploded ordnance during its invasion.”
“While any assistance to Ukraine is welcome, it is however a small package, which will hopefully be followed by larger and more continuous aid packages, which Ukraine needs and that Australia as a G20 nation can easily afford,” Ryan said.
Government documents indicate that the Australian Government’s Budgetary revenue has unexpectedly increased by more than $70 billion due to higher commodity prices for Australian agricultural and energy exports resulting from Russia’s war on Ukraine.
On the other hand, at least one “alt-right” Australian media personality - echoing some US Congressional “MAGA” Republicans and Kremlin narratives - criticized the Government for acting at all.
Sky News host Liz Storer said Australia’s increasing funding to Ukraine in their fight against Russia is “utterly crazy”.
“Let’s remember this is NATO’s war,” Storer said. “NATO started this war, they can finish this war. I just can’t believe that Australia is now being sucked into this, like we don’t have enough issues at home.”
Additionally, it was confirmed that Australia has now fulfilled it’s NATO summit commitment to send a highly advanced Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) E-7A Wedgetail aircraft and up to 100 Australian Defence Force personnel to the US’ Ramstein Air Base in Germany for a six-month deployment “to protect a gateway of international humanitarian and military assistance to Ukraine.”
Officials said that the Wedgetail will use its highly effective radar system “to search for missiles launched from hundreds of kilometers inside Russia and Belarus as it watches over Ukraine’s supply lines from Europe.”
The chief of the RAAF, Air Marshal Robert Chipman, said the fifth generation Wedgetail will provide early warning of any missile attack on depots and supply routes into Ukraine that run through Poland and other neighboring countries.
“The Wedgetail will track the missiles and assess where they might hit, increasing defenders’ chances of bringing them down,” the senior commander told the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) adding that “it’s protecting Europe in the unlikely event that Russia would choose to escalate the war.”
ASPI noted that the Wedgetail’s advanced multi-role electronically scanned array (MESA) radar provides a very long range, unrestricted 360° view around the aircraft. According to publicly available sources, MESA can track 180 targets and carry out 24 intercepts at once.
The other materiel to be provided as part of the package was developed by Australian defense technology firms DroneShield, Micro-X, Minelab and SPEE3D.
Melbourne-based SPEE3D has previously worked with the US Department of Defense to deploy seven 3D printers and equipment training for the Ukrainian armed forces. It said the new Washington announcement included three additional printers.
“Military personnel will now have the ability to print metal parts of consequence, large and small, that could otherwise halt an advance or cripple an operation,” the company said.
“These printers are ideal for manufacturing in a contested environment because they can be transported to or near the point of need. The technology uses supersonic deposition to spray heated and compressed air more than two times the speed of sound,” it added.
The New York Times reported that, during his Rose Garden news conference with the American President, the Australian Prime Minister invoked the words of Biden’s late son, Beau, to emphasize the strength of the US/Australia partnership, be it in the Middle East or Ukraine.
“When there’s an Australian with you, they’ll always have your back,” Albanese said, as Biden bowed his head.
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